The Big Island: routes and the Mountain

Hoping this thread can be generally useful for those going to the Big Island in addition to being personally useful for me.

I’m headed to the Big Island in a few weeks (my gf qualified for Kona) and will be bringing my bike. I’ve been to Kona several times previously, so I’m quite familiar with the area/island as a whole, but have never ridden. So:

  1. Are there any routes I should be particularly aware of that leave from Kona?
  2. Are there any “must-do” routes on the island?
  3. I can bring my road bike (Storck Aerfast) or my gravel bike +/- road wheels (OPEN UPPER). Thoughts? Is there any real reason (other than the below) for a gravel bike?

This brings us to the second part: climbing Mauna Kea. I would likely go from Waikaloa. From what I can tell, people either use their road bike and switch to a hard tail at the visitor center or go for it with a gravel bike. If I brought my road bike, I could opt to rent a gravel rig for the day.

My OPEN is geared at 50/34 in front with 11/34 in the back. I’m 4.8-4.9 W/kg (FTP ~365 W). Not really sure how I could get more advantageous gearing other than maybe squeezing a 11/36 105 cassette on. My thought is to run the OPEN as is and put something like a Pathfinder on for tires: smooth center for the pavement but wider and knobby for the gravel. I’d probably run a higher pressure for the pavement and deflate at the Visitor Center. Would love thoughts from anyone who has done the climb.

1 Like